Earlier this year, Whole Foods’ Trend Council predicted that one of the top food trends in 2024 will be “putting the plant back in plant-based.” After seeing what's on the menu at our favorite restaurants over the past few months, we agree this trend is putting down strong roots.
Many diners are seeking more plant-based options because of sustainability choices, budget, health benefits, or just plain preference. But with the rise of food sensitivities, the original “chick’n” and other highly processed meat alternatives are being put on the back burner.
Instead, restaurants and suppliers are going back to basics. When it comes to launching new plant-based menu items for your guests, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Focus on Fresh, Quality Ingredients
Explore options with your suppliers instead of just picking the first veggie burger on the list and hoping for the best. Because 47% of consumers identify as Flexitarians and are willing to spend more on plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, it's worth it to have a few dishes thoughtfully created by the chef.
Crazy Pita’s fresh falafel is a wholesome example - legumes top a short ingredient list. They pack a deliciously nutritious punch without being overly processed, so it’s no wonder the falafel is one of their most popular menu items.
Pro tip: Want to further increase ticket value? Consider adding a seasonal cocktail or mocktail to complement the new items. Sales data has shown that for full-service restaurants selling alcohol-based beverages, drinks represent about 21% of total sales!
Tell Your Guests
Whether you’re just starting to experiment with your first plant-based offerings, or you’re adding more adventurous options to an established menu, be sure to update your website with a menu that can be read by search engines. That means no PDFs or JPGs – search engines like Google are looking for text to read.
Pro tip: Place your new items prominently on the menu. Plant-based dishes that are featured in an appetizer or entree section tend to perform better compared to a footnote stating alternative proteins are available for a surcharge.
The Emporium by Sage Hospitality Group does a great job of this by featuring an Oyster Mushroom Rigatoni in the middle of their Large Plates section.
Marqii’s automated menu updates connect your POS menus directly to your website and listings, and make it easy to mention keywords like plant-based, vegetarian, or dairy-free for specific dishes. This lets guests know what to expect while also improving SEO for guests searching for plant-based keywords.
Including local keywords, like neighborhoods or cities, on other areas of your website will also enhance content and help you rank higher in relevant local searches. Whether it is the About Us page, meta description, or even your review responses, keywords are king for being found.
Tell Your Guests Again. And Again.
Email and text are effective ways to introduce new menu features to your already loyal customers. Depending on your average guest frequency and how often new items are being offered, emails and texts can be sent anywhere from every week to once a month.
You can post on social platforms like Instagram and Facebook more frequently. Make your posts extra enticing with high-quality photos and descriptions.
Pro tip: Get even more mileage out of your keywords by including them in your responses to guest reviews. Marqii's Managed Review Response puts the power of AI and HI (Human Intelligence) to work, automating responses to reviews using your brand voice and your target keywords, so you can both save time and be found by hungry diners in your area.
Check out how Handcraft Burgers and Brew craft a personalized response that mentions popular dishes as part of their review management strategy.
Not only do they get an extra serving of relevant content to boost local SEO and attract new guests, but loyal customers appreciate being acknowledged.
Decide What to Keep, and What to Compost
Review insights and local search analytics can be used alongside sales data to understand how new menu items are performing.
- Are you starting to be found for keywords like “vegetarian lunch near me”?
- What items are being ordered...and reordered?
- Are your new menu items being mentioned in your reviews? And are those mentions tied to positive feedback, or negative?
All of these questions can be answered by analyzing your data. Instead of logging into a bunch of different platforms to pull reports, you can compare both review management insights and local search analytics right in one easy-to-view spot with Marqii.
Adding the right plant-based options to your 2024 menus is poised to pay off big. The U.S. plant-based food market was worth $8 billion in 2022, and it isn’t expected to slow any time soon.
If you’re ready to try something new, Marqii helps with everything from automating digital menu updates to social posting, responding to restaurant reviews, and more. We'll even come try those new Lion's Mane Tacos and Jackfruit Carnitas next time we’re in town.